Thursday, July 23, 2009

Fun on forty wheels

Sometimes fun presents itself in unexpected places. Take, for instance, our last police training session.

I was "officially" informed that one of my duties would be to escort our half of the group to the track. The police officers come from all over Oregon. The first part of their day is spent in a classroom session. Then they're divided into two groups. One group goes to the track and the other to the airport. After lunch the groups switch venues. The classroom is pretty much across the highway from the classroom. Makes it pretty easy to find. The classroom instructor will take care of that, anyway. It's a bit more complicated to find the track. How do you ask a cop for directions when they're from a different part of the state? Hence my services as a guide.

Since it only takes one instructor to do classroom, the rest of us met early at the track. We spent some time playing, er, I mean, practicing our lines. We had the track for the day, why waste it? You know, there's really worse ways to start a Monday than running lap after lap on a tight and technical track. The instructors had it all to themselves. All good things come to an end, they say. All too soon it was time to go get the cops and get down to some real work.

The photo above is what I saw when I arrived at the parking lot. A sea of police bikes. There were thirty eight all together. My Nikon was in a saddlebag back at the track. Those of us with sport touring bikes strip the bags off for the track time. The picture was taken in bright sunshine with my camera phone. It's not the best camera but you get the idea.

I dismounted Elvira and walked into the classroom. When you walk into a small room crowded with almost forty uniformed police officers it can feel a little strange. It's old stuff to me but I can imagine someone thinking they walked onto the set of a "Cops" episode. Depending on the person, some might start heading towards the nearest wall, if you know what I mean. "Assume the position!"

Everybody finally got sorted into the two groups. They were all busy chatting with each other. I finally started Elvira rolling and made some sort of smart mouthed comment to get their attention. Time to go. I'm riding point with 19 police bikes in formation behind me. We had a ten minute ride through downtown McMinnville. It's interesting what goes through your mind at a time like this. With a lively mind like mine, the possibilities are endless.

First off, I'm torn between riding at a legal speed or taking advantage of the situation. Do we set a good example to the public or take the attitude that with so many police bikes it's really a non-issue. I opted for prudent. Take that for what you will. Then I had another idea.

I could ask them all to activate their lights. How cool to have so many police bikes with lights flashing following me at 30 miles an hour. Let's do an "O.J." guys! Remember that slow speed chase?

Then I thought it would be cool to really piss off some driver. Especially some guy a whole lot bigger than me and driving one of those ridiculously jacked up pickups. It would have been so fun to watch the conflicting emotions in his face. On the one hand the dude would want to pound me. Not that it would be easy, mind you. I'm much tougher than my five feet eight and a half inches would lead one to believe. The guy's anger would be tempered by glances at all the police bikes parked behind me. I'd taunt the dude, for sure. Hey, you mess with me, you mess with all my friends.

Of course, with my luck the cops would let the guy have at me without stepping in. They'd sit on their bikes and laugh their back ends off. Suddenly the entertainer becomes the entertainment. Would you all really do that to me?

None of this came to pass. It was merely entertainment in my head. We did have a bit of real life amusement, though.

It wasn't long before our group came up behind a mid-sized grey sedan. An average looking woman was driving. I'm sure she had absolutely no reason to be nervous of the group behind her. I doubt there were any warrants out for her. She's probably never even had a speeding ticket. Imagine driving along minding your own business. Suddenly, there's this pack of motor cops on your tail. They say the best safety device in the world is a police officer in your rear view mirror. How about 19 of them led by a Hi-Viz wildman on a black FJR?

In between chuckles I actually felt sorry for her. I'm sure she probably had a sore neck before long. I was right behind her, being at the head of the pack. There was a repeating pattern to her head movements. Look down at the speedometer. Look back up to check the rearview mirror. Check the left side mirror. Check the right side mirror. Look out the front windshield on the way back down to the speedometer. Worry, glance, repeat.

We followed her for probably three quarters of the way. The speed option was totally taken out of my hands. The speed limit was 35 mph. According to Elvira's speedo, we were doing 33. When the speed limit was reduced to 25, she actually put on her brakes to make sure she was slowed before the new speed limit sign. You got it, the speed was 23. She finally turned off, but not after signaling for almost a whole block before the turn. I can imagine the huge sigh of relief when she saw we weren't following her!

When you've been on the other side of the badge and still spend a lot of time around police officers in various capacities, you don't think much of it anymore. Most civilians are coming from a different place. I sort of wished there had been a way to assure the poor woman that she could relax and enjoy her drive. We had other things going on. Unless she had just robbed a bank or decided to do some street racing, she was simply a part of the scenery. I'll bet we came up in her dinner table conversation with the family that night.

Our group arrived at the track without terrorizing anyone else. Stay tuned for more from the track. By the way, have you figured out the "fun on forty wheels" part by now? It was probably obvious right away. I thought it was kind of clever, myself.

Miles and smiles,



Balisada said...

It almost sounds like that de-motivational poster that I saw.

It had a motorcyclist being followed by a bunch of police cars and the text at the bottom:

"No, I don't have any donuts!"


Charlie6 said...

aww come on Irondad! A golden chance for you to say to your students: Catch me if you can! Sort of a bonus exercise!

Too bad you didn't have a rear facing camera mounted to capture the sight of all those motorcops behind you.....

fasthair said...

IronDad: I am LOL my butt off here!!! Pass the whiskey this is going to get good :)


bobskoot said...


how about a scooterist leading the pack ?

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Lucky said...

If I walked into a room with forty police officers in it, I'd walk right back out. Similarly, I'd get the heck off the road if I saw all those police behind me.

I don't really have a reason to be nervous around cops, apart from getting harassed a fair bit when I was a teenager. Apparently I was suspicious looking back then.

Good thing that's not the case anymore... ;)

Conchscooter said...

One other reason I am glad not to have a take-home car is that driving Highway One in a police car guarantees a long boring ride home at 45mph, not a mile over, even though Florida law allows five miles per hour over the limit (with only a written warning at worst).
The day lawmakers understand and their voters accept that putting more cops on the streets reduces crime, not increasing the severity of the punishment, is the day crime prevention gets effective.

Dean W said...

Charlie6- We have a different class for that, where the instructor is, in fact, a rabbit, that the motor officers have to try to keep up with.

Last week I saw a sticker on a bike, that said "Capable of evading high speed pursuit".

Don't try that in Oregon- the guys (and gals) we train love their job, ride well above average, and some of them say the best part of their day is running down someone on a sportbike that thinks they're fast...

Balisada said...

Perhaps next class you can get a large shirt over your coat that says:

"I have donuts."



Steve Williams said...

Dear Maniac,

I can always count on you to find yourself in unusual situations. I can't always count on you though to do the rebellious thing it seems.

Maniac, perhaps you can redeem yourself by answering a high level technical question.

While looking at a Honda Goldwing I was told about the amazing and miraculous rear brake feathering technique that makes handling one of these behemoths during slow speed turns and maneuvers so simple that anyone can ride.

Now as a scooter rider I'm not privy to these most secret techniques. As I understand things it involves keeping your foot on the rear brake and the throttle on so you have constant, controlled power through a turn and don't have to worry about stalls. Too fast? A little more brake please and the bike leans a bit more. Leaning too much and about to drop? Ease up on the brake and upright the boat goes.

I tried it with a Triumph on a little track and it seemed to work. But Maniac, is this good and proper technique or merely something for tricksters???

Helpless in the sticks.

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

R.G. said...

One lone vehicle being pursued by multiple LEO's...Sounds like a scene from Smokey and the Bandit.
Ouch! kinda dated myself there didn't I.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear IronDad:

I would have begun the class by announcing that the best body armor under all circumstances is panty hose, and I would have passed out 19 pair of "Spanks," and demanded that all of the cops put them on. Then I would have taken their picture during the transition.

Or, I would have put itching powder on their seats, with the announcement that training often makes cops who are unsure of themselves and their riding abilities nervous to the point where they begin scratching their asses.

This comes from years of profiling in which cops were allowed to call me the "alleged perpetrator."

Fondest regards,
Jack "reep" Toad
Twisted Roads

To Steve --
I am hardly an expert but I was under the impression the braking technique you are describing is called "Trail Braking." (Just wanted to see if I was right.)

Steve Williams said...

Mr. Riepe: The rear brake feathering technique may well be called "trail braking". Either way it has eluded me until now. It's probably an advanced technique and not available to scooter riders.

Sojourner rides said...

Fun! 19 bikes plus you = 40 wheels--cool.

That poor woman, I know how she feels. My heart pounds when I see even one police officer--and I'm not even speeding or doing anything to draw attention to myself. But I'm quietly having a heart attack. I had two bicycle officers stop me once. I just about died. One of them wanted to tell me that he liked my BMW F800ST and that he test rode one. They kept me there chatting about motorcycles. He even complimented me on being ATGATT. Still, I was nervous the whole time. I'm sure they heard my chest thumping.

irondad said...


I saw that same poster. It's pretty funny. Unless you're a cop, of course.

I actually get that chance when I help teach the high speed pursuit class on a race track. One of us acts as a "rabbit" with a pair of motor cops chasing us with lights and sirens. It's pretty cool to be doing 139 mph with cops behind me and not worry!

Guess I need to get some sort of helmet cam.


There's more to come but I have to take a little detour. Try to keep the level in the whiskey bottle up until we get there! :)

Take care,


irondad said...


With a milk crate strapped onto the back seat?


I think you were born suspicious looking. Have you ever traced your ancestry? I'll bet they're all outlaws! I'm envious, by the way.


Been there, done that. I agree. It's not the severity of the punishment, it's the inevitability that acts as a deterrent. That and the fact that the best safety device in the world is a cop in the rear view mirror. As evidenced by not being able to get anywhere in a marked or obviously unmarked car. Which brings us back to the beginning.

Dean W,

And you and I help keep them tuned up!

Take care,


irondad said...


I really liked that movie. Now I'm dated, too!

Mr. Riepe,

Brave talk for someone not actually being followed by 19 motor officers! And there is nothing "alleged" about you.

Stay tuned to the next two posts to see if you're right or not.

Take care,


Allen Madding said...

Thanks to KTDID, here is the ultimate cam for mounting on a helmet or on the bike:

make sure to check on the video she made with the camer and posted on her blog. AMAZING


Lucky said...

I'll tell you about my mostly-factual illustrious ancestry sometime... Let's just say I'm genetically wired to conquer and pillage.